Mary Beth Writes

Written 1-30-14 when I was still working at the jail.

Have you seen the sun rise lately?  The sky has been dawning, many of these days, as if someone is pulling rosy pink taffeta ball gowns up out of the long, cold nights.  That shimmering, wild, splendidly intense rose comes up into the world. For a few moments, the snow is pink; the trees are warm with color. I saw a seagull flying that was pink on one side, white on the other.  It is magnificent.

A while later I drive the car out to work; the sky is still gasping with an afterglow of pink ribbons. The lake is now that color of rich, dusky teal blue that makes my toes curl. Of course, that deep blue hue is edged and laced with a zillion shades of glittering snow, bobbling chunks and clumps of glinting ice, and silver gulls.

On the way to work I have to make my first hard decision of the day. Am I going to turn east at Goold so that I can drive right along Lake Michigan several more blocks, before turning back to Main to finish the trip to work?  Or am I just going to stay on Main Street, which saves me turning four corners?

If I turn in, now I have to put up with all the aforesaid gorgeous colors AND the rich camel of the wide, winter-wet beach.  Once I saw a coyote doggedly padding north along the shoreline; I had to stop and watch, it was better than the Uffizi (art museum) in Florence – and I have BEEN to the Uffizi and I have seen da Vinci’s up close and personal. As his reputation says, da Vinci is nothing to sneeze at.  But a lone coyote on a wide winter beach in the early morning? Sloshing teal and frozen tan, shimmering rose and snowy white behind him?  Hoo-boy, I had to pull up my socks back up that morning.

And then I get to work. You’d think I would be safe from beauty inside a jail, right?

Not always. Imagine sitting at a utility table in a beige-painted cement block room. There are four or five inmates, in their orange cotton uniforms, sitting in beige plastic chairs.

You know what happens?

They talk, they listen, we work on stuff… and sometimes the overhead fluorescent lights turn them into Renaissance art. Their faces glow in the amazing tones of all human skin. Their eyes; dark, light, some red-rimmed because they are tired. Their hair is clean or dirty, very minimal hair products. All that is in the room are men or women in their natural, flawed, real, present, humanness. 

I say nothing because it would be way too awkward, but I see it and my heart races. You couldn’t put this on a bucket list, and yet here it is, inside a jail; human beauty in its natural, warm, breathing, animal handsomeness.

So here’s the thing that stymies me ab out myself and about all of us.

There is so much beauty in the world. It’s everywhere.

Where we expect it – dawn.

Where we don’t – jail.

It’s in the white plastic bag swirling and lofting across a city street.

It’s in the sky when a flock of starlings do somersaults for no reason we can comprehend.

It’s in the face of the neighbor who doesn’t know she’s standing in the light of the setting sun.

It’s in the way things fall off the table when the cat pushes them, and now there is jewelry, a pen, two pieces of paper, and your mittens scattered on the wood floor in an arrangement you couldn’t have dreamed.

How do we ever get bored? How do we ever say, “This town is so stupid” or, “My house is dumb” or “That is such an ugly person”?

I dare me and I dare you, this coming cold, tough week, to open your eyes and see what’s beautiful.

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Quarantine Diary #17 3/30/2020

Why are people (lots of them) on Facebook posting photos of landscapes? The instructions say one should post a picture of a landscape one took somewhere, one should not say where that place is, and no people should be included, especially not the posting-person.  

Why? I don’t get it. I don’t mind but I really don’t get how this connects to anything.

A friend’s husband’s company had a virtual meeting this morning about the future of their company. Things are changing but not shutting down. They will still have income and insurance.  Thought you might like to know.  

Quarantine Diary #16 3/29/2020

I’ve been busy today so I’m a little late getting to this diary. Doing what, you ask? Oh, brilliant things like washing the bathroom and doing laundry and going for a blustery walk. Took the plastic off the particular windows we wrap in the fall.

Spent a chunk of the morning reading about the lead-up to the Revolutionary War battles at Saratoga. More about that later.  Reading about brave and canny, stupid and ego-centric politicians of an entirely different era is part of my coping strategy for life in the US. We aren’t the first to live in fraught times. Not by a long shot.

Quarantine Diary #15 3/28/2020

The Long-Awaited Groceries (The hymn “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is in my brain right now) came last night at 9PM – when it was raining. A woman named Sarah, late 30’s, brown ponytail, not-posh sweatpants and hoodie – carried ALL our groceries across the street from her car to our porch. This included 8-packs of Gatorade plus boxes of seltzer water, plus lots of other heavy stuff. Did I mention it was raining?

Quarantine #14 3/27/2020

Last night we did another wild and crazy thing. We got in our car and went for a drive! The first thing we remarked to each other was that we had not been in the car together in weeks.  It felt a little odd to be in there, next to each other, about to GO SOMEPLACE! Maybe this is the way it feels to be the family dog when they let you sit in the front seat and EVERYTHING IS SO AMAZING!

We drove west into the rosy sunset, filled with excitement to, um, see the sky.  Quarantines are easiest on people who have a low bar for excitement.

Quarantine Diary #13 3/26/2020

What do you miss?  What, in our new pandemical world do you miss most from our pre-pandemical world?You know, the one we lived in till two weeks ago?

I don’t mean the heartbreaking realities such as safe medical care providers and enough places to go should one become ill and the loved ones that we are losing.

I just mean, what are we getting used to? Or trying to get used to. What might we never go back to?

Quarantine Diary #12 3/25/2020

Right now it is 11:00AM.  Got up this morning at the regular time. Did regular things. Came to the office to write. Worked (hardly at all) on a project, wrapped an item for eBay. Announced to Len at 10:30 that I was sleepy and going to take a nap.

You know what he said?  He said, “Me, too.”

The following half hour he took the sofa and I took our bed and both of us slept like toddlers on cots.

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